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Careers Clinic: How do I get emergency funding for Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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A year ago, I made a vision board and declared 2018 my year to do a full Edinburgh Fringe show as a producer and performer.

I found myself a good script, two excellent cast members and we have a very catchy flier image.

We also had a main backer until two days ago when he emailed to say his business has gone bust and he can’t support us any more.

With the venue booked and the publicity campaign already rolling, I honestly don’t know what to do. My cast mates still want to go ahead, but that is putting even more pressure on me. It’s also hard to promote the show with as much enthusiasm as I had as I’m not even sure we can afford the train to Edinburgh.

I’m now desperately looking at my credit rating to see if I can get a loan, but I wondered if you had any suggestions?

JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE Like many actors before you, taking on the production role for the first time is a great opportunity to see if it is one you fancy doing on an ongoing basis. This funding situation is a very good yardstick to base that judgement on. Last-minute shortfalls are exactly the kind of unexpected crisis a producer might have to deal with, while keeping the artistic side of the show moving forward.

The good news is that quite a few producers I have heard from, who have suddenly found themselves in a similar situation, have still made it to opening night with show and sanity intact. In some cases, the quickest solution probably involved whipping out the credit card.

Contrary to what Bialystock and Bloom from The Producers might advise, if a producer wants other people to invest in their production, they need to be prepared to invest themselves. On the other hand, it sounds as though you have already invested a lot of time and effort, so before you potentially get yourself into debt on top of that, it is important to factor in that making a profit, or even getting your money back, can be very difficult.

The shows that make it into the black usually do so based on how well the original does and who picks it up afterwards. Even if you have, or can borrow, the funds to get you over the finish line, it’s worth looking at other options to lesson the blow.

Crowdfunding is worth considering. However, creating an account on a crowdfunding site doesn’t magically bring in money. The success of this kind of campaign depends on the attractiveness and inventiveness of perks offered to contributors and the strength of your collective social media networks to get the word out. You don’t have to put out an X Factor sob story, but don’t let ego stop you telling people why the show is important to you and why you need help. You might be surprised how many will empathise and rally round.

Think about who else in your network might be at the fringe this year. Even if they can’t help financially, a spare sofa in somebody’s digs, the loan of equipment or just a Facebook or Twitter share can make all the difference.

Lastly, make sure to contact the participant services team at fringe headquarters. They may not have a money pot to dip into, but there is unlikely to be a fringe-related issue they haven’t already come across, and finding out how other theatremakers solved similar issues may give you some inspiration for yours. Best of luck and see you at the fringe.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne


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